Examining Mortality and Receipt of Social Security Benefits as Reasons for Desistance from Homelessness Among Older Adults: A Case Study of Houston’s Homeless

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Matthew S. Rutledge, Boston College, Dennis Culhane, University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Byrne, Boston University, and James Sears, U.S. Social Security Administration

The study links data from the emergency shelter systems in several large American cities with SSA data to investigate the pattern of desistance from homelessness among those in the age cohort who have been disproportionately impacted by homelessness for over 20 years and who are now approaching retirement age. The specific research questions to be addressed by the study are as follows:

1) To what extent does mortality contribute to the observed pattern of desistance from homelessness among older adults?

2) How does premature death impact the ability of persons with a history of homelessness to receive Social Security retirement benefits? To what extent do individuals with earnings histories that would render them eligible for Social Security retirement benefits die prior to reaching the statutory age for claiming these benefits?

3) To what extent do older homeless adults receive Social Security retirement benefits, SSDI and SSI? Does receipt of these benefits help facilitate exits from homelessness?